Delaware Public Media | by Roman Battaglia & Joe Irizarry
Lawmakers passed the largest bond bill in state history today Tuesday, with both chambers overwhemingly approving the $1.3 billion plan.
State Senators passed it unanimously. It passed the House 39-1 with State Rep. Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden) voting ‘no’ and State Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) not voting.
The bill dwarfs the largest previous Bond Bill – a $863 million dollar allocation two years ago, and is $450 million more than Gov. John Carney proposed in January.
State Sen. Nicole Poore (D-New Castle), the Bond Bill committee co-chair, says this massive investment in the state’s economy and infrastructure is well-timed.
“It’s about surcharge supercharging job growth in Delaware today, at the exact moment our state is transitioning into a post pandemic economy,” said Poore. “Every single project funded through the capital budget will help create good paying jobs that will put delawareans back and help families across the state secure their futures as well.”
The spending takes big chunks out of the state’s different maintenance backlog and helps to repair many crumbling roads across Delaware by allocating $386 million for road projects.
Lawmakers also boosted funding for the new Family Court buildings in Kent and Sussex County, helping to speed up their construction. The bill now has $131 million for these projects.
$70 million is earmarked for community redevelopment statewide, with $42 million for Democrats to spend and $28 million for GOP lawmakers to direct.
That funding will be distributed by the Bond committee chairs to organizations nominated by lawmakers. Poore says nominations are still coming in, and the funding has yet to be finalized.
House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf says the money will be handled properly.
“This is 1.35 billion dollars that’s going directly back into our communities, into our state, into every individual citizen we have living in our state. This money isn’t going into a pocket in some place of ours. It’s going into their pockets, it’s going back into their communities and pay for infrastructure in their communities and to do the things that they need done,” said Schwartzkopf. “The list that we’re talking about will be shared as soon as it’s compiled. The individual members have a certain amount of money that they put towards projects and as soon as those projects are given to the two chairs, that list will be public. So there’s no trying to hide anything or anything like that.”
State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Pike Creek Valley) renewed complaints he made during Bond Bill Committee hearing about this spending amounting to “pork” for lawmakers, but ultimately voted for it because of the issues it addresses.
“Like the incredible backlog of deferred maintenance in our schools and in our buildings, like the need for some school reconfiguration and rebuilding in areas of need that needs some attention, like the monies that we try to put through the ag and DNREC for our farmlands, and our crops, and our ditches, and our dredging,” said Ramone.
State Rep.Yearick, while admitting the bill will help his constituents, says he voted ‘no’ because of the level of spending while businesses and residents are still financially recovering from the pandemic.
House lawmakers also unanimously passed the record $63.2 million Grant-in-Aid bill Tuesday. The Senate is set to take that up on the final day of session Wednesday.